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GAME PREVIEW: GM #32 Cougars at Victoria Royals

COUGARS LOOKING TO END THREE-GAME WINLESS STREAK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND

The Prince George Cougars (11-17-1-2) continue their five-game pre-Christmas road trip tonight on Vancouver Island, as they take on the Victoria Royals (14-13-1-0) at Save on Foods Memorial Centre. The Cougars are coming off a 6-5 loss against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday, and the Royals split a mid-week home stand against the Portland Winterhawks. The Cougars sit fifth in the B.C. Division, four points back of the Royals who sit third.

COUGARS SCOUTING REPORT: The Cougars are in a slump, no denying that. They’ve won just one of  their last eight games coming into the weekend. They’re still in search of their first win of this road trip, having lost five-straight on the road. It may read as if the sky is falling, but the Cats are just four points back of the third place Royals. Four big divisional points this weekend for Prince George, as they wrap up the road trip in Langley on Sunday afternoon. The Cougars sit just two points back of the Kamloops Blazers who are in fourth and hold onto the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. After the Christmas break, it’s six-straight on the road, starting December 28th in Seattle. Their next home game isn’t until January 11th against the Kelowna Rockets. after a scoring change, Vladislav Mikhalchuk was credited with his first career hat-trick on Tuesday. Originally, the Cougars’ first goal was awarded to Matéj Toman but after reviewing video the goal has since been credited to Mikhalchuk. The 19-year-old Belarusian leads the Cougars in goals (12) and points (26) through 31 games. Mikhalchuk has six goals in his last four games. Cole Moberg is second in team scoring with 20 points (7-13-20) in 31 games; he had two assists Tuesday. Josh Maser is third in team scoring with 18 points (10-8-18) in 27 games; he scored in Tuesday’s setback to Seattle. Thursday, Taylor Gauthier was selected to play in the Sherwin-Williams CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game. He is one of 16 WHL players to be named to the 40-man roster. The 40 players will be split into two teams, Team Cherry and Team Orr, at a later date. The Top Prospects game is January 23rd in Red Deer. Gauthier leads the Cougars in games played (24), minutes played (1352), wins (7), and saves (645). He’s 1-2-0-1 against the Royals this season. Ilijah Colina and Josh Maser lead the Cougars in scoring against the Royals, as both have four points (2-2-4). The Cougars are 1-2-0-1 against the Royals this season. They picked up their first win against the Royals on December 2nd. In the last five years in Victoria, the Cougars are 4-8-1-1. The Cougars power-play is 5-24 in the last five games. The Cougars penalty-kill has is 8-16 in the last five games.

ROYALS SCOUTING REPORT: The Royals are in a rut of their own, as they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games (2-7-1-0) heading into the weekend. The Royals are the second-lowest scoring team in the Western Conference, with 79 goals through 28 games. The Cougars are the lowest-scoring teams in the West, posting 73 goals through 31 games. The Royals have been held to two or less goals seven times in their last 10 games. The Cougars? Six times. The Royals split a mid-week double-header against the Portland Winterhawks at home. They won 7-4 on Tuesday but lost 7-2 on Wednesday. Tonight, is the third game of a four-game home stand, which wraps up tomorrow against the Vancouver Giants. Despite their recent struggles, the Royals are still third in the B.C. Division and are just three points back of the Kelowna Rockets and have four games in hand. Kaid Oliver (14-9-23) and Dante Hannoun (12-11-23) are tied for the team scoring lead, as each have 23 points. Hannoun though has 23 points in five less games. D-Jay Jerome is third in team scoring with 22 points (12-10-22) in 28 games. Hannoun is riding a three-game point streak (3-1-4) against the Cougars. He’s been a Cougars nemesis, in 28 career games against the Cougars, Hannoun has 24 points (6-18-124). Tarun Fizer is currently riding a three-game point streak (4-1-5). Griffen Outhouse’s next win will be his 100th in his WHL career. Only 15 other WHL goaltenders have won over 100 career games, including the Cougars Ty Edmonds. Outhouse leads the Royals in games played (22), minutes played (1296), wins (12) goals-against average (2.68) and save percentage (.917). He missed both games in Prince George early this month, as he was sidelined with an upper-body injury. The Royals are 39-17-2-0 against the Cougars since being relocated from Chilliwack. They’re 20-7-1-0 all-time at Save on Foods Memorial Centre versus the Cougars. Their power-play has struggled of late, as it’s on an 0-20 run dating back to December 2nd; they haven’t scored a power-play goal in five-straight. The penalty-kill is 14-19 in the last five games.

 

COUGARS LEADERS

Goals: (12) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Assists: (14) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Points: (26) Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Power-Play Goals: (4)  Vladislav Mikhalchuk

Short-handed Goals: (1) Jackson LeppardTyson Upper

PIMS: (73) Austin Crossley

 

ROYALS LEADERS:

Goals: (14) Kaid Oliver

Assists: (13) Scott Walford

Points: (23) Dante Hannoun, Kaid Oliver

Power-Play Goals: (5) Dante Hannoun, Kaid Oliver

Short-handed Goals: (2) Kaid Oliver

PIMS: (41) Mitchell Prowse

 

COUGARS FOCUS

  1. GOALS ARE A PREMIUM: Both teams sit in the bottom third in the WHL in scoring and both have struggled to manufacture offence in the last 10 games. It should be a great goaltending match up between, what we expect, Taylor Gauthier and Griffen Outhouse. Well, it’s Isaiah DiLaura and Brock Gould tonight. Should be great competition between the pipes between two hungry goalies. They play well against one another. It’s two low scoring teams, offence doesn’t come easily, so which team can cash in on their chances?
  2. CONSISTENCY: Can the Cougars string together three good periods? It’s been their Achilles heel this year. Their compete through all three periods has been a focal point. They’re a great first period team, scoring first in 18 of their 31 games and are a plus four in the first period. The second has been a sore spot. They’re a minus 24 in the second period. Look at the game against Seattle. They were up 3-2 going into the middle frame, but came up down 5-4. They need to have the same push in all three frames tonight.
  3. TOP END: Can the Cougars top-six out duel Victoria’s? They’ll need the likes of Mikhalchuk, Maser, Leppard, Browne, Colina and Curtis to have an impact. Both teams don’t have a ton of scoring depth so the Cougars top guys, have to be just that tonight.
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